The pink ribbon has become a widely accepted symbol for breast cancer awareness, prevention, and research, but many people do not know its origin.
The pink ribbon was first used in 1991 by the Susan G. Komen Foundation during a foot race held to support breast cancer survivors. Today the ribbon has grown to symbolize support for disease prevention, research, and those who experience breast cancer firsthand. The symbol is considered public domain everywhere except Canada.
Only a year after the Susan G. Komen Foundation used the pink breast cancer ribbon at their race, the ribbon received more exposure from Estee Lauder and Self magazine. Alexandra Penney, the editor-in-chief of Self, a magazine directed at women’s health issues, joined forces with Evelyn Lauder, the senior corporate vice president of the Estee Lauder cosmetics company, to create a ribbon that would show solidarity for women and men affected by breast cancer.
While Penney and Lauder tried to develop a breast cancer ribbon to be released in conjunction with Self magazine’s second annual issue devoted to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, breast cancer survivor Charlotte Hayley was already selling cards with ribbons attached to them. These cards explained the need to provide further support for breast cancer prevention. Unlike today’s pink breast cancer ribbons, though, Hayley’s were peach-colored.
Penney and Lauder were aware of Hayley’s efforts, and working together with her and her lawyers, developed a concept that spread their shared message of need, hope, and solidarity. They eventually settled on pink as the color of the new ribbons. While Penney and Lauder had been aware of Hayley’s campaign, it does not appear that they were in contact with the Susan G. Komen Foundation about using the pink ribbons during the new campaign.
Regardless of where they got the idea to use a pink ribbon, it soon became an international symbol supported by several corporations and recognized by millions of people everywhere. Pink breast cancer ribbons are now used all over the world to support breast cancer prevention, research, and survivor solidarity. Some of those countries include Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania, among others.
Today, while the pink breast cancer ribbons are sold to support breast cancer prevention, they are also printed on products by companies supporting the efforts of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each October a deluge of pink products flood into stores. Companies selling the pink ribbon products generally donate a set portion of proceeds to research and prevention of breast cancer.
In 1998 the United States Postal Service issued a pink ribbon stamp. Unfortunately, the stamp was discontinued due to disappointing sales. Today, a newly designed stamp that does not feature a pink ribbon supports breast cancer research. In 2006, Canada minted a pink ribbon 25-cent coin and put 30 million of them into circulation. It was only the second pink coin ever produced.